Locker Room Love? Highly Doubtful!

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We keep hearing from the Sports media that there are already gay men in pro football that just have not come out. But, now that Michael Sam has come out prior to the draft, teams may not be accepting of him and his “baggage”. This just does not make any sense to me. How would a teammate feel any different if he suspects or if he knows for certain? We hear that they will be uncomfortable in the shower, yet aren’t these “suspects” in the shower now? Perhaps, the mystery just makes it a bit more exciting?

People often throw around the similarities between the military and pro football. Players say they are going to battle and call themselves soldiers. Often, resulting in media backlash, because there really is a big difference between the game of football and the life of a soldier. I spent five years in the U.S Army. Before getting married, about three of those years were spent living in close proximity to lots of other male soldiers. In using the term “close proximity”, I mean living together in barracks and in tents; and in woods and on trucks and even in airplanes that you would shortly jump out of at very low altitude. I was lucky due to timing, but most that I served with spent time on the battlefields of Iraq in even closer and worse conditions.

Maybe it is just me, but this seems like a bit more of a drastic embedding than any pro football player will ever feel as part of his team. In every Army unit I was assigned, there were gay men and women. These were not medical units. These were Communication units and Airborne Communication units. These were units that spent 45 days in the woods training several times a year and could be deployed overseas at a moment’s notice. These were units filled with people of every walk of life, and I do not remember once in five years hearing about issues between the gay and straight soldiers. This was the “Don’t ask don’t tell” era. So, no one was actually coming out, but living in close quarters like this, there was not a lot of hiding it either. I am not stupid or blind, and I am certain there was and still is plenty of discrimination in the military. I can only speak from my experiences. When you realize your life may be put on the line, you care a lot less about what someone does in the privacy of their own room or home.

I truly hope that once the media is done beating this dead horse of a story that it just blows over and Michael Sam gets drafted, at the same slot he would have before coming out. And, his NFL teammates accept him as his college teammates did. Even better yet, maybe his partner will end up being in the military! And, this would be the last time we have to talk about this “baggage”. ‘Cause like some old blue eyed crooner once said regarding gays in the military “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!” that is what he was talking about, right?

Good Luck, Sam!

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Bullying: A New Level of Pain

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I am a sports fan, a football fan, and after living in South Florida for 12 years, a bit of a Dolphin’s fan.  That may be changing.  My plan for this blog was to not use this forum to get too personal about things, but with the recent news about what has been going on within the Dolphin’s organization, I had to vent.  Where are we as a society that some people are defending Richie Incognito in any way shape or form on this?  Not only was this a workplace, but whether they like it or not, this was unacceptable and brutal behavior between two role models for our youth.  We as a society are dealing with a new bullying phenomenon that many adults today are unable to comprehend.

Today, many adults are, unfortunately, looking back on when they may have been bullied.  I am 41 and there were bullies in my schools.  We were called names or pushed, maybe even punches were thrown.  It was uncomfortable, but it was usually older kids picking on the younger kids and for the most part harmless.  It ended for most shortly after it started, and at that time, was a coming of age experience.

Today, on the other hand, bullying has gotten so evil and harsh that kids feel it is easier to commit suicide than to deal with this new extreme form of bullying.  This is a sad statement, and one that should reach parents deeply to their very core.  How are some of our kids becoming so aggressive in their hate for others who are different, that they can push them to suicide?  Or, on another level, make a grown man quit his job forfeiting the possibility of earning millions of dollars?  What have we become as a people…as a society?

Spending 5 years in the military, I have been through my share of hazing that easily could have been defined as bullying by higher ranking soldiers and sergeants.  The big difference was there seemed to be a purpose to most of it.  The purpose was to strengthen your mind or body to prepare you for battle, and everybody went through it.  And, no matter how many football players compare their job to going into battle, it never will be the same thing.  In the military, hazing was used to build a team.  The hazing and bullying we hear about today has no purpose, but to make one person feel weak while building up the personal ego of their tormentor.

I have often heard the answer to this issue is to punch the bully in the face.  I keep hearing “The victim, Jonathon Martin, was 320lbs he should have kicked his ass!”  Take a look at this Richie Incognito rant at a pool hall.  I can’t think of many people who would be throwing punches at someone that looks and acts like this around his “friends”!  Teammates and coaches knew this guy had drug and mental issues in the past.  Was no one watching out for him and his teammates?

The more news that comes out on this; the more it sounds like people in positions of power knew that many of these things were happening.  We do not yet know how much.  Regardless, we as humans need to take this as a wakeup-call and take a good look at today’s style of bullying.  It is a new more dangerous world, but should this behavior be anywhere in our current society, let alone in the very places we go for relief like our schools, the playground and now even NFL locker rooms!?!

Perhaps, it is time to look within ourselves and ask what are we creating and to what end?  Is this “win at all costs” truly worth the cost of our children and their childhood?  Have we become such a “Lord of the Flies” society, that the rich and powerful will beat those perceived as weaker into the ultimate submission?